Feb. 3 2011 12:00 AM

MSU professor says city officials need to ‘seriously think’ about Lansing’s food sources

This story was updated Feb. 4.

Thursday, Feb. 3 — Thinking of moving to a densely populated neighborhood to get better access to nutritional foods? A recent academic study may change your mind.

Kirk Goldsberry, a Michigan State University geography professor, reinforces the notion of Lansing as a food desert: The city’s most densely populated neighborhoods have limited access to fresh foods — especially if you don’t have a car.

A vast majority of Lansing residents do not live within walking distance of a supermarket or a grocery store. About 3,000 Lansing residents don’t have access to an automobile, he said.

“I think that city officials need to seriously think about the nutritional opportunities available to local residents, ” Goldsberry said.

Goldsberry presented “The Lansing Food Environment: A Geographic Perspective” at a lecture Friday as part of the MSU Geography Department’s Colloquia Series.

His findings gain more relevance with the recent closing of five L&L grocery stores throughout greater Lansing. Smaller markets checkered throughout the area make healthy food easier to access compared to a big box store on the periphery. And though community gardens and farmers’ markets are on the rise in Lansing neighborhoods, that covers less than half of the year.

“The simple fact is that in a time when we need more small-scale grocery stores that serve our densely populated neighborhoods, what we are seeing is closures instead,” Goldsberry said.

Goldsberry also examined food accessibility by race.

Nearly 45 percent of white people who don’t have a car don’t have access to fresh foods within 10 minutes, compared with 41.6 percent of African-Americans.

Bruce Pigozzi, also an MSU geography professor, said Goldsberry achieved an important linkage between academia and day-to-day neighborhood issues.

“It’s provocative. The study bridges academic and community issues,” he said. “Everybody eats food, it’s quite related.”

MSU geography professor Arika Ligmann-Zielinska said there is more to be done on the topic.
“It’s a very good lecture which shows a geographic analysis of the accessibility to produce items. The topic itself is fantastic and I think we should do more research in that area,” she said.